Song of the Week: It’s a good day (to fight the system) by Shungudzo
Last week, I got the chills in a 9:50 a.m. anthropology class.
“We are at the cusp of a great change of social systems,” Lavanya said, and the rest of us lifted our heads. Class was no longer about the intellectual scholarly discussion of anthropology and gender theory; we had turned to praxis.
As excited as I am by gender and sexuality theory, by page 35 of analyzing the micro and meso levels of single determinant and additive models of identity, even this ethnic and gender studies major was ready for a break. We all were. I’d started checking my watch fifteen minutes prior, and that’s why this statement five minutes before class ended made us all pause in the middle of surreptitiously packing up our bags.
“Capitalism is shaking its death-rattle,” she went on, “And revolution does not have to be loud and in the streets. It can be quiet.”
It was the suddenness. The thing she had been inching towards since the start of class that we didn’t notice until she pointed to it. I suddenly forgot about the two other classes I had that day, while simultaneously being hyper-aware of the insignificance of this meeting of twenty students in a liberal arts college on a Wednesday morning. We were witness to a quiet revolution, which she had dropped as if it was nothing but an everyday assignment.
“If you are not content with the world today, in your journal I want you to dream about the better world you want instead.” Ah, there’s the assignment.
“What kind of structures of solidarity and social structures would be necessary to make it happen?” She asked, and finally, after a pause: “On a local level, what can you do differently?”
Even as I griped about another task added to my to-do list, this question followed me out of anthropology, into lunch and gender studies and Spanish. I was aware of myself as I made space for men passing by on the sidewalk, wondering why I wasn’t choosing to take up space myself. I was aware of the way my Spanish professor asked whether students identified as male or female, and how she taught us the socially-created gender-neutral pronoun ‘elle’ even though it isn’t approved by Spain as part of the Spanish language. I was aware of my dress, which I had chosen to counter the button-down and men’s pants I’d worn the day before.
As a non-binary person, I make daily decisions in my clothing to place myself outside the gender binary. Our professors make daily decisions about phrases and questions and journaling prompts, and how much to toe the line. There was something so small and yet so moving about asking why we make these choices.
“To quote Mariame Kaba,” Lavanya said to the class earlier, “‘Hope is a discipline.’”
We can choose to go to class and doze off to theoretical discussions of astrophysics and spreadsheets and speed-read through plays and thirty page essays so we can check them off our lists. We can also choose to set aside the readings and the quizzes and instead, to ask why.
“Can you imagine a world in which these things do not constrain you?” She leaves us each day with these rice grains of revolution. “What would that look like?”
She reminded us that revolution is about a dream. We become so frustrated by the impossibility of how to get to somewhere new, that we forget where we’re going in the first place. If I had gotten too bogged down by the tediousness of reading and theory and lectures, I would’ve missed this. It is these small every day moments in our classes that carry the seeds of change.
I have the discipline to hope, and I am ready for the quiet revolution.